Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fun-Time Phonics Review

I am a firm believer in making learning fun, especially in the early years. Many hands-on learning exercises and play-based learning are vital to little ones. I will incorporate some formal education though by following the cues of my children. One way that always grabs their attention is the use of electronic programs. The little ones feel it is a treat to use the computer to do their own school. Programs like Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download from The Critical Thinking Co.™ are perfect for these times. It allows the child the privilege of using the computer, while learning in the process.

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has been "committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life" since 1958. Their award-winning products help students achieve better results through highly effective lessons that sharpen the mind. They teach reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history in a fun, easy-to-use way. Their methods aren't based on drill and rote memorization, but techniques that empower the mind to get the student to think. Michael Baker, the company's president said, "If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless." One of the reasons we homeschool is that we want our children to be able to think for themselves, to be able to problem solve to find a solution. It is our job to prepare them for life, not just memorize facts. We strive to give our kids the tools necessary to make clear, reasoned judgments. The programs from The Critical Thinking Co. are designed to do the same thing.  

Fun-Time Phonics is a comprehensive reading program based on data from the National Reading Commission. Cute robots teach the lessons, guide the activities, and engage students through listening, thinking, speaking, and reading. The lessons portray that spoken words are comprised of individual sounds, and that those sounds are written with letters, through the emphasis  of sound/spelling patterns, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

The program is divided into 4 sections:
  • Section 1 -- This first section teaches that words are made up of sounds and focuses on beginning sounds, ending sounds, vowel sounds, and words that rhyme.
  • Section 2 -- This part teaches the short vowel sounds and the letters that make the sounds.
  • Section 3 -- These activities get the student to understand that different sounds are made based on the consonants and short vowel sounds that are used.
  • Section 4 --  This final area combines all the skills that have been taught, and the student learns to read his first words.

My 4-year-old has been the one using this program. He and I sit together at the computer and do the lessons together. The program explains the lessons in a fashion that a student could work on it on his own, but since my guy is at the very beginning stages, I prefer to be there with him for further explanation and encouragement. Each lesson starts with brief instructions and then many examples. For instance, the first lesson teaches the letter T and its sound. Then, there are 15 opportunities to choose the /t/ sound out of 3 choices. One of the robots articulately pronounces each picture word so the student can hear them. After the child clicks his choice, there is either positive reinforcement through clapping and cheering or simply a reply letting him know he picked an incorrect option.

The lessons are simple and short. The format is repetitive, and therefore, my little guy loses interest after a bit. I wish there were some different activities in the lessons. Also, when he gets an incorrect answer, it doesn't tell him which one was correct. It just tells him that he was wrong. I would like to see it do both. For example, the program says, "Pup does not rhyme with hop," and that's all. I wish it would say something like, "Pup does not rhyme with hop. Drop. Hop. Drop rhymes with hop."

It's really easy to move around through the program to find which lessons your child needs to practice. You just log into the admin section and choose the lesson. Otherwise, it will start you at the beginning and proceed through them on its own. You can also see your child's progress on each section and add more users.

All in all, I think the program is fine and a good job of teaching the aspects of reading. It's just not my favorite option. I really wish there was more variety. We'll still continue to use Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download as a supplemental program at times, but I will not require it as part of our weekly schedule.


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The Crew was able to review many different products offered by The Critical Thinking Co.™. If you'd like to read more reviews of this program, other components of the Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program, or reviews of some physical books, please visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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